[Skip to content] [Skip to main navigation] [Skip to user navigation] [Skip to global search] [Accessibility information] [Contact us]

About the Art: Duncan Eames

We spoke to Duncan Eames about his amusing photograph from this year's exhibition of the British Wildlife Photography Awards in which a jackdaw provides a stag with some fashion advice.

Can you tell us the story behind your photo in this exhibition?

I try to document the rut in Richmond Park every year since I’ve started my photography hobby– I’ve only missed one due to a broken camera (I broke it while setting up for the rut three weeks after I’d purchased it). Last year’s self-imposed rut assignment was deer with anything on their heads be it flora or fauna.

My wife and I were watching this particular stag having a good thrash while sheltering from the rain. He eventually seemed satisfied with his efforts and settled for what you see in the photo which wasn’t as impressive as most of the others around that day. Soon after a Jackdaw flew in and landed on his back. Although I did notice that it was a little special, at the time I didn’t spot the apparent eye contact between the two until much later. I like to think the Jackdaw was giving the stag some fashion advice.

  • Duncan Eames

    "> What do You Mean "it Does't Suit Me?", 'What do You Mean "it Does't Suit Me?"' which features in the 'Behaviour' category of this year's British Wildlife Photography Awards, Duncan Eames
    'What do You Mean "it Does't Suit Me?"' which features in the 'Behaviour' category of this year's British Wildlife Photography Awards, Duncan Eames

How did you go about getting that shot?

I wish I could say I was waiting patiently for hours and there was meticulous planning beforehand but it wasn’t anything like that. I just happened to be sheltering from the worst of the rain while trying to protect the camera with a rain cover on the way to having a much-needed coffee. It just so happened that this stag was thrashing about in the grass between resting and a bit of bolving (roaring) - probably part of the reason for choosing the tree for cover. I think we were just about to move on, so I’m glad we actually stayed a little longer.

How long did you have to wait for this shot?

Not long at all. From the moment we had sheltered to the shot probably about 10-15 minutes.

  • Defiant Roar, This is one of my best-known photos. It taken in October 2013 and used in the BBC Wildlife magazine in their 50th-anniversary edition, and their How to Photograph Wildlife special.  , Duncan Eames
    This is one of my best-known photos. It taken in October 2013 and used in the BBC Wildlife magazine in their 50th-anniversary edition, and their How to Photograph Wildlife special. , Duncan Eames

Did you use any particular equipment or software?

I used a Nikon D810 with a 500mm f4 lens on a Gitzo Tripod with a lensmaster gimbal head. I actually had the wrong white balance set as I was experimenting with a manual setting that worked before the cloud and rain came in. This was corrected in Lightroom along with cropping (the original was in portrait orientation) and sharpening.

I had the aperture set to f/5.6, in hindsight I probably would have set the aperture to f/8 or more but I am really pleased with how this came out.

What are your favourite scenes, species or motivations behind your photographs?

I wouldn’t say I have any favourite species or scenes as such. Given most of my well known work are Red Deer photos; I’d have to say one of my favourites has to be the rut in Richmond Park. The sounds, smells and the sight of the deer and the park keep drawing me back.

One of my main motivations for wildlife photography is that I find it is a great way to relieve stress. I couldn’t just watch wildlife all the time, so the camera comes too.

What are the difficulties of wildlife and nature photography that you face?

One is Time. Currently, I’m lucky to get out once a month as real life takes over. So any photo opportunities other than small walks that have been tagged on the end or before shopping trips have been few and far between. I haven’t had much chance to get around some of the better wildlife sites around town for a while either. Sometimes, because I haven’t been consistent with my trips I forget about camera set up or technique (technical and field craft) so it can take me a while to get back into the swing of things. Likewise, my time for processing the photos can be limited. I usually have a couple of hours to process the images. I’m still trying to work out a way to process that works for me.

I currently don’t drive so getting to certain places is harder. I try to turn this into a positive and concentrate on the more accessible places and the wildlife around me.

  • Fieldfare, This Fieldfare photo was one of the first photos I felt that I got right with my first DSLR and long zoom lens. (Nikon D80 and Sigma 150-500mm). Taken in the first big snow of 2010, I took a snow day off from work. I still remember phoning in while up to my knees in snow while on my local patch. , Duncan Eames
    This Fieldfare photo was one of the first photos I felt that I got right with my first DSLR and long zoom lens. (Nikon D80 and Sigma 150-500mm). Taken in the first big snow of 2010, I took a snow day off from work. I still remember phoning in while up to my knees in snow while on my local patch. , Duncan Eames

What would you like people to think about when they see your work?

To be honest I’ve not really thought about this, other than that I hope they enjoy what I have to show. As I have mentioned in the previous question, I currently try to document what is around me. A lot of the wildlife around us is taken for granted so I hope that people also find the native nature as interesting as I do.

With regards to the photo in the exhibition, I hope the interaction between the Red Deer and the Jackdaw raises a smile.

How long have you been a photographer and how did you get started?

I started with wildlife photography in about 2009 when I purchased a telephoto zoom lens a few years after I got my first DSLR. I blame my wife and the Polish countryside around where she grew up as a more recent catalyst as I wanted to document what I found around there.

What would you advise someone wanting to start taking photos of wildlife or nature in their local environment?

When it comes to equipment you do not need to spend lots of money. Just because you don’t have the big, heavy, shiny kit doesn’t mean you won’t take good photographs. Choose the right camera make that suits you. It’s no good if you don’t like how it’s balanced or how the controls are laid out. If you can, spend the money on the lenses over the camera body. Unless you have more cash than you know what to do with you are likely to be sticking with one make. If you are also considering stabilisation, ensure that you pick the best tripod your budget will allow. This should be as high as lenses on your list of equipment. Don’t make the same mistake I did or you’ll end up buying another tripod later.

Just get out there and take photos. Practice will mean your photos get better regardless of what you’re trying to achieve be it something creative or just a decent record shot.

There are plenty of places to practice be it urban, coastal, or countryside. For animals and birds, an ideal place to start is in a local park as they are likely to be used to people. I have found that ducks, other waterfowl, and garden birds are very good to start with. Don’t just rush in or get too close. If you can get level with or lower than your subject it can give a better shot. Sometimes sit back and watch the behaviour you can learn a lot and apply it to the photography.

Experiment with your technique, try and emulate others and put your own spin on it. Share your photos and get feedback, post them online or join a camera club. Learn from your mistakes and from others.

  • hedgehog, This is one of the five hedgehogs that visited my garden over the summer. I was laying in wait for it to snuffle its way through the plants at the back of the garden. It heard the camera going and paused for a while (it stayed like this for the time I took the photos). I stopped after five minutes and walked away. To be honest this was the bravest of all the five hedgehogs and after this would walk around me and eat right next to me if there was hedgehog food out for the â which there often was.  It never seemed to mind the camera and often appeared to pose for me. , Duncan Eames
    This is one of the five hedgehogs that visited my garden over the summer. I was laying in wait for it to snuffle its way through the plants at the back of the garden. It heard the camera going and paused for a while (it stayed like this for the time I took the photos). I stopped after five minutes and walked away. To be honest this was the bravest of all the five hedgehogs and after this would walk around me and eat right next to me if there was hedgehog food out for the â which there often was. It never seemed to mind the camera and often appeared to pose for me. , Duncan Eames

What projects are you working on now or have coming up?

I don’t tend to plan photo projects too much as real life gets in the way. It's not that I don’t have ideas, it’s more whether I get the opportunity to carry them out. At some point, I think I may have to change my outlook on taking photos and concentrate more on getting the subject and its habitat rather than the close-up portrait.

Over the last few years, I have occasionally thought about the Wagtail roosts around my town, it might be a good opportunity to have a go with them. One site and probably the best roost around the town happens to be on private land so I’ll have to ask permission. As the area is very busy and usually with far too many people I’m not sure they will allow me.

Next year I hope that I can document the hedgehogs visiting the garden. I had five this year and they seemed to tolerate me being close. Sadly none of them have stayed despite my best efforts to make them feel at home with food, shelter and a section of my garden that is less attended to than the rest. If they do come back, I may even be allowed a trail camera or two to help me document them. If I get the right camera there could be live streaming.

I have repeatedly promised to go and photograph the Peregrines at Charing Cross Hospital in London when I’m in the area and I have always been carried away with other things and then not going. If I mention this here I have no excuse but to visit now.